I'm one of those guys who actually reads Vanity Fair as well as looks at the dirty pictures. Vanity Fair is the Victoria's Secret of periodical literature. My late wife Mary never allowed me to subscribe to either fine magazine and she generally purchased Vanity Fair herself at the Kroger in Bourbonnais, Illinois and only allowed me Xeroxed copies of the articles she thought would improve her husband's mind and soul.
Ten years a widower have freed me to scan Vanity Fair, but now I am more likely to become aroused by the pastry shots on the cover of Bon Appetite than by Annie Leibowitz's air-brushed shots of pouting hot babes and nightmarishly aging Hollywood Cougars. Actually it has more to do with the native propriety acquired in my 'close-knit ethnic' Catholic environment than with anything else. I read Vanity Fair, because I am also a Thackeray Geek. William Makepeace Thackeray is the author of Vanity Fair the novel that inspired Tolstoy's War and Peace , Anna Karenina and Mitchell's Gone With The Wind. R'ally, Rhett!
Christopher Hitchens, the boozy Bible battler, is one of my favorite writers and a frequent contributor to Vanity Fair. Hitchens foots a pen, like a Kerry Farmer on methamphetamine toes the turf. ' Look at that Man dig, so!'
Hitchens, who detests all forms of organized religion, is one of the most urbane and gentlemanly voices in any debate. Unlike the more strident ACLU addicted public Atheists, Hitchens sticks his rapier wit through the body of oafish bigots and lightly lettered loudmouths. In this issue of Vanity Fair, Hitchens review Peter Ackroyd's study of Issac Newton from his Brief Lives series, which dispels the popular illusion of Newton, getting whacked by an apple under the tree's shading boughs:
In contrast with this clarity and purity, however, Newton spent much of his time dwelling in a self-generated fog of superstition and crankery. He believed in the lost art of alchemy, whereby base metals can be transmuted into gold, and the surviving locks of his hair show heavy traces of lead and mercury in his system, suggesting that he experimented upon himself in this fashion, too. (That would also help explain the fires in his room, since alchemists had to keep a furnace going at all times for their mad schemes.) Not content with the narrow views of the philosopher’s stone and the elixir of life, he thought that there was a kind of universal semen in the cosmos, and that the glowing tails of the comets he tracked through the sky contained replenishing matter vital for life on Earth. He was a religious crackpot who, according to Ackroyd, considered Catholics to be “offspring of the Whore of Rome.” He was also consumed by arcane readings of the book of Revelation and obsessed with the actual measurements of the Temple of Solomon. Newton elected to write his already difficult Principia Mathematica in Latin, boasting that this would make it even less accessible to the vulgar. He is still revered in the little world of esoteric and conspiratorial mania, featuring as a member of “the Priory of Sion” in The Da Vinci Code. And secularists and rationalists conspire, too, in their way, to keep his mythic reputation alive. The beautiful “Mathematical Bridge,” which spans the River Cam at Queen’s College, is still said to have been designed by Newton to stay in place without nails or screws or joints, and to be supported by gravitational force alone. When later scientists dismantled it to discover the secret, according to legend, they could not work out how to put it back together again, and had to use crude bolts and hinges to re-erect it. Newton died in 1727, and the bridge was not built until 1749, but rumors and fantasies are much stronger than fact.
Rumors and fantasies are much stronger than fact and that truth is what allows Hitchens such masterful turns of phrase when considering Barack Obama's pitiful progressive patina:
What can it be that has kept Obama in Wright's pews, and at Wright's mercy, for so long and at such a heavy cost to his aspirations? Even if he pulls off a mathematical nomination victory, he has completely lost the first, fine, careless rapture of a post-racial and post-resentment political movement and mired us again in all the old rubbish that predates Dr. King. What a sad thing to behold. And how come? I think we can exclude any covert sympathy on Obama's part for Wright's views or style—he has proved time and again that he is not like that, and even his own little nods to "Minister" Farrakhan can probably be excused as a silly form of Chicago South Side political etiquette. All right, then, how is it that the loathsome Wright married him, baptized his children, and received donations from him? Could it possibly have anything, I wonder, to do with Mrs. Obama?
This obvious question is now becoming inescapable, and there is an inexcusable unwillingness among reporters to be the one to ask it. (One can picture Obama looking pained and sensitive and saying, "Keep my wife out of it," or words to that effect, as Clinton tried to do in 1992 when Jerry Brown and Ralph Nader quite correctly inquired about his spouse's influence.) If there is a reason why the potential nominee has been keeping what he himself now admits to be very bad company—and if the rest of his character seems to make this improbable—then either he is hiding something and/or it is legitimate to ask him about his partner.
I direct your attention to Mrs. Obama's 1985 thesis at Princeton University. Its title (rather limited in scope, given the author and the campus) is "Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community." To describe it as hard to read would be a mistake; the thesis cannot be "read" at all, in the strict sense of the verb. This is because it wasn't written in any known language. Anyway, at quite an early stage in the text, Michelle Obama announces that she's much influenced by the definition of black "separationism" offered by Stokely Carmichael and Charles Hamilton in their 1967 screed Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America. I remember poor Stokely Carmichael quite well. After a hideous series of political and personal fiascos, he fled to Africa, renamed himself Kwame Toure after two of West Africa's most repellently failed dictators, and then came briefly back to the United States before electing to die in exile. I last saw him as the warm-up speaker for Louis Farrakhan in Madison Square Garden in 1985, on the evening when Farrakhan made himself famous by warning Jews, "You can't say 'Never Again' to God, because when he puts you in the ovens, you're there forever." I have the distinct feeling that the Obama campaign can't go on much longer without an answer to the question: "Are we getting two for one?" And don't be giving me any grief about asking this. Black Americans used to think that the Clinton twosome was their best friend, too. This time we should find out before it's too late to ask.
When a writer deflates the nonsense, gravity really does its job. Barack Obama's lightning run at the White House was ill-advised and arrogant. Like Newton, some ugly thoughts and not apples seem to be making history.
Christopher Hitchens - May You Be in Heaven A Half Hour Before the Devil Knows Your Dead!